Essential Oils and Depression
Did you know that at some point in their lives, around 1 in 4 Americans will experience depression? It is estimated that every year over 20 million people suffer from depression in the United States alone, and worldwide the projected figures are at 350 million sufferers.
Let's face it, we've all been hurdled with the blues at some point in our lives but depression is more than just feeling low, and for some it is a severe disorder that they struggle with every day.
If you or someone you know has one or more of the symptoms below it could very well be a signal for depression and getting help:
- Constant fatigue and tiredness
- Insomnia or too much sleep
- Lack of energy
- Low sex drive
- Constant melancholy and sadness that you can't shrug off
- Feelings of never-ending despair and in severe cases suicidal thoughts
- Bodily aches and pains
- Irritability and short-temper
- Inability to concentrate and focus
- Overwhelming feelings of being weighed down
- Sense of hopelessness and negative thinking pattern
- Lack of confidence and low self esteem
- Decreased or increased appetite including cravings
- Anxiety and rapid heartbeat
- Avoiding going out with friends, social situations, or spending time with family
- Wanting to stay in bed all day
If you answered yes to one or more of the above then you may have depression or be in a depressive state at this time in your life.
So what are the next steps? A visit to your doctor who can assess your individual case is a good start. Depending on the severity of your condition you can turn to medication, alternative treatments or a mix of both.
You might perhaps think that medication is the easy answer to depression, but that's not always the case. Anti-depressant medications come with adverse side effects, are hard to wean off and can at times make the condition worse. Using natural and alternative treatments or complementing a low dose of medication with these treatments can help control depression symptoms and keep your mood in check.
Aromatherapy using essential oils is scientifically proven to help elevate mood, alleviate the symptoms of depression and prevent future episodes.
How Do Essential Oils for Depression Work?
You might be skeptical about essential oils working for depression, but essential oils can actually "affect a number of biological factors, including heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, breathing, and immune function," as reported by a study conducted in Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany.
So here's how essential oils for depression actually work - the aromatic molecules present naturally in essential oils can cross the blood/brain barrier and have a direct impact on areas of the brain which control feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.
Biologically speaking, the nerve cells in the nose detect smell and trigger an impulse to the brain through the olfactory nerve which connects to the olfactory bulb. The bulb evaluates the impulse and conveys information about the smell to areas of the brain known as the limbic system. The limbic system is an important section in the brain that helps to control emotions, mood, pain, pleasure and behavior - which in turn affects our emotional responses in the form of happiness, sadness, fear, attraction and more.
This makes essential oils incredibly powerful as the scents they exude can directly affect the limbic system and in turn our memory and emotional response, which is why they can play an extremely important role in fighting depression.
Here's our list of the best 15 essential oils for depression:
1. Lavender Essential Oil
Easily one of the more popular essential oils, most people can immediately recognize the lovely aroma of lavender essential oil. Using lavender to calm can be dated back to the ancient Romans. Research in recent years has proven that lavender can help combat depression, and alleviate insomnia and anxiety.
A 2012 study evaluated if aromatherapy helps to improve anxiety and/or depression in high-risk postpartum woman. By following a 4-week protocol of diffusing lavender in the home, postnatal depression in the participating women was significantly reduced and the study concluded with "positive findings with minimal risk for the use of aromatherapy as a complementary therapy in both anxiety and depression."
Another study was conducted on those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is directly linked to depression. Lavender oil demonstrated incredibly promising results and when used on a daily basis helped decrease depression by 32.7% and also helped to regulate sleep and improve mood in 47 participating patients with PTSD.
How to use lavender oil for depression:
1. Diffuse: Put a diffuser in your bedroom and diffuse lavender oil while you sleep at night. This will help improve sleep, calm the body and mind leading to increased focus, clarity and reduced depressive thoughts.
2. Apply topically: Rub lavender oil behind the ears and on the inside of your wrists to achieve similar results. The medicinal properties of the oil can enter the bloodstream in as little as 5 minutes!
3. Inhale directly: When feeling low or irritable, simply inhale lavender oil right out of the bottle to instantly relax and feel calm.
Find premium quality lavender essential oil at UpNature. GMO Free. No toxins. Unfiltered and undiluted. Therapeutic grade.
2. Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
Did you know that ylang ylang is one the main ingredients used in the famous perfume Chanel No. 5? Extracted from the flower petals of the tropical ylang ylang tree, the incredibly sweet and floral aroma of this bright flower has incredible benefits and can help curb the negative thoughts associated with depression.
A 2006 study concluded that the usage of, "ylang ylang oil in aromatherapy" can cause "a relief of depression and stress in humans."
Ylang ylang oil is also known to help promote hormonal balance. This is important since unbalanced hormones are known to cause mood swings, irritability and depression. The oil is also a mild sedative which can help to lower stress levels and promote calmness.
How to use ylang ylang oil for depression:
1. Apply topically: Rub a few drops of the oil directly on the wrists, neck, feet and behind the ears (trigger points) to improve your mood and reduce feelings of irritability.
2. Restore hormonal balance: Hormones can often go haywire by stress and an increase in cortisol levels. Pairing ylang ylang oil (hormonal balancer) with orange essential oil (cortisol reducer) can help decrease cortisol levels and bring back hormonal balance. Simply add 3 drops of each in your diffuser to calm and balance the mood.
3. Grapefruit Essential Oil
When used in aromatherapy grapefruit essential oil can invigorate the senses and is an excellent oil for alleviating mental exhaustion and fatigue. It's intense citrusy scent helps to elevate low moods and energize both the mind and the body. Like other citrus oils, grapefruit oil is proven to normalize neuroendocrine hormone levels as well as improve immune function.
A 1995 study concluded that treatment with the fragrance of citrus oils can be "more effective than antidepressants."
How to use grapefruit essential oil for depression:
1. Use in a diffuser: Add a few drops of grapefruit oil to your diffuser when you need to wrap up a project and can't get yourself to concentrate.
2. Add to your shower: Feeling low? Add a few drops of grapefruit essential oil to your shower for instant rejuvenation.
Find premium quality grapefruit essential oil at UpNature. GMO Free. No toxins. Unfiltered and undiluted. Therapeutic grade.
4. Bergamot Essential Oil
Remember the distinctive taste of earl grey tea? That's the citrusy taste of bergamot. Bergamot essential oil is highly stimulating and contains limonene and alpha pinene which makes it an effective anti-depressant and hormone balancer. It also helps to increase energy flow which improves blood circulation and enhances energy levels, boosting and uplifting the mood.
A 2011 study documented that bergamot essential oil can help reduce anxiety. Another study reported the benefits of creating a blend by combining both lavender essential oil and bergamot essential oil. The blend was applied on the skin and abdomen of 40 participants and the study discovered that the blend not only lowered blood pressure and decreased pulse rate but increased feelings of calmness and relaxation. The study concluded by suggesting that, 'this synergistic blend provides evidence for its use in medicine for treating depression or anxiety in humans.'
How to use bergamot oil for depression:
1. Apply topically: Rub a few drops of bergamot essential oil (or bergamot oil mixed with lavender oil), directly on the wrists, feet and on the stomach to enhance relaxation and elevate your mood.
2. Diffuse: Add 3 drops of bergamot essential oil and 2 drops of lavender oil to your diffuser to calm and balance the mood.
5. Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
There's a reason why chamomile is so widely used in teas, candles and aromatherapy products. Similar to German chamomile, roman chamomile oil has a floral, herbaceous scent and is well known for the calming effects it has on the mind and body.
According to a 2012 study, roman chamomile oil provides, "clinically meaningful antidepressant activity." By helping to relax both the mind and the body, roman chamomile oil helps to alleviate insomnia which is often associated with low moods and depression.
How to use roman chamomile oil for depression:
1. Inhale directly: Rub 2-3 drops of roman chamomile oil in your hands and cup to your mouth and nose. Breath in slowly.
2. Diffuse: Add a few drops of roman chamomile oil to your diffuser to promote relaxation and calm the mind and body.
6. Sandalwood Essential Oil
Sandalwood essential oil has a warm, woody, calming aroma. You'll often find it in incense and it is great to diffuse when meditating as it helps increase mental clarity and focus. The scent of the oil has a powerful therapeutic effect on the brain's limbic system, and the oil is an excellent emotional balancer. The oil also has sedative properties which allows it to enhance sleep quality and alleviate depression. The popular aroma of sandalwood oil is a definite mood lifter!
How to use sandalwood oil for depression:
1. Inhale directly: Inhale deeply from the bottle or by rubbing onto the palms and cupping your hands in your face.
2. Relaxing massage blend: Combine 6 drops of sandalwood essential oil and 2 drops of rose oil with a neutral oil such as jojoba oil (which will not overpower the amazing fragrance of sandalwood oil). Massage under the feet and on the wrists or use as a full body massage oil to promote relaxation and restful sleep.
7. Basil Essential Oil
Naturally high in antioxidants and Vitamin C, basil essential oil helps to reduce inflammation, alleviate stress, and calm the nervous system. Basil oil also stimulates the adrenal glands which makes it especially helpful in revitalizing energy levels and even alleviating chronic fatigue. Fatigue is a major roadblock for many depression sufferers so since basil oil helps to reduce sluggishness it can directly help to reduce these adverse symptoms of depression.
How to use basil oil for depression:
Add to your diffuser: Combine 3 drops of basil oil and 1 drop of peppermint oil to instantly revitalize, energize and uplift the mood.
Note: It is recommended that basil oil is not used by pregnant women.
Find premium quality basil essential oil at UpNature. GMO Free. No toxins. Unfiltered and undiluted. Therapeutic grade.
8. Jasmine Essential Oil
Extracted from the jasmine flower, research conducted in 2010 suggests that Jasmine oil can be as "calming" as the popular anti-anxiety drug valium, when it comes to overcoming anxiety and stress.
Jasmine essential oil has an aromatic floral scent and due to it having concentrations of linalool, it has a mildly sedative and calming effect allowing it to alleviate anxious thoughts, relieve stress and ease depression. Apart from that Jasmine oil actually stimulates the brain, helping to uplift the mood, and promoting feelings of self-confidence and optimism.
How to use jasmine oil for depression:
1. Inhale directly: When feeling low or anxious, inhale jasmine oil directly from the bottle or put 1-2 drops on a handkerchief.
2. Apply topically: Rub a couple of drops directly on the wrists or on the ankles to curb feelings of anxiousness.
9. Orange Essential Oil
Orange essential oil is a potent anti-depressant and wonderful at energizing and lifting the mood. In fact a study conducted at the Japan based Mei University, reported that when given orange oil patients were able to, "markedly reduce the amount of anti-depressants they took," and that orange oil also helped to normalize endocrine levels and stabilize immunity.
In another study, orange oil was found to lower heart rate and decrease cortisol levels lowering stress and anxiety.
Orange oil is extracted from the orange peel and contains geraniol, alpha-pinene, and limonene, which are all known to have antidepressant effects. With its energizing scent, orange oil creates feelings of happiness, increases energy levels and helps elevate the mood.
How to use orange essential oil for depression:
1. Use in a diffuser: Diffuse a few drops of orange essential oil to instantly elevate the mood and improve concentration.
2. Inhale directly: Inhale orange oil directly from the bottle to invigorate the senses and feel an instant energy boost.
Find premium quality orange essential oil at UpNature. GMO Free. No toxins. Unfiltered and undiluted. Therapeutic grade.
10. Clary Sage Essential Oil
Clary sage essential oil promotes feelings of hopefulness, increases confidence and is a very uplifting oil. In a 2010 study, clary sage oil was proven to be an effective anti-depressant by modifying dopamine pathways in the brain. The oil can also help alleviate feelings of fear and anxiety and evoke feelings of calm and relaxation.
How to use clary sage essential oil for depression:
Add to your bath: Add a few drops of clary sage oil along with 2-3 drops of jasmine oil to your bath. The blend will help to calm the senses and help you feel relaxed.
11. Geranium Essential Oil
Great for enhancing positive emotions, keeping mood swings under control and alleviating depression, geranium essential oil has natural sedative properties, and can help to enhance sleep quality and calm the body and mind.
Geranium can also aid in curbing feelings of anxiety and help to regulate hormonal imbalances which can trigger depression. As an anti-inflammatory with pain-relieving properties geranium may potentially alleviate bodily aches and pains which are also common amongst depression sufferers.
How to use geranium essential oil for depression:
Use in a diffuser: Diffuse a few drops of geranium essential oil to relieve feelings of anxiety and elevate positive emotions.
12. Turmeric Essential Oil
Turmeric essential oil is proven to be an excellent oil for treating depression. In fact a 2014 study of sixty patients with depression divided into 3 groups when administered turmeric oil, concluded that the oil is as effective as the popular drug Prozac in alleviating depression symptoms.
Turmeric is an intense, yellowy orange root and hails from the same family as ginger. Curcumin, the main constituent of turmeric, helps to boost levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BNDF in the brain that can cause depression. Curcumin has been found to stop and even possibly reverse the effects that low levels of BNDF can cause.
There is also more research suggesting that curcumin can stimulate the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that can uplift the mood and promote positivity.
How to use turmeric oil for depression:
1. Inhale Directly: Inhale turmeric essential oil directly from the bottle to curb anxious thoughts and feelings of sadness.
2. Diffuse: Diffuse a few drops of turmeric essential oil in the air to balance the mood, relieve stress and feel calm and relaxed.
Find premium quality turmeric essential oil at UpNature. GMO Free. No toxins. Unfiltered and undiluted. Therapeutic grade.
13. Rose Essential Oil
Rose essential oil is an amazing oil for alleviating the symptoms of depression. It's main constituent geraniol has proven anti-depressant properties.
Rose oil promotes feelings of happiness, stimulates the libido, helps to boost confidence and encourages hopeful thoughts and is great to use on its own or in a blend to combat depression.
How to use rose essential oil for depression:
1. Inhale directly: When feeling low inhale rose essential oil for a boost of confidence.
2. Apply topically: Rub rose oil on the temples or the back of the neck to bring calm and relieve stress.
14. Patchouli Essential Oil
Patchouli essential oil is extracted from the leaves of the patchouli plant, which is a herb of the mint family. Patchouli is an amazing mood-lifting oil and its pleasant earthy aroma can help to decrease feelings of sadness and hopelessness and replace them with feelings of positivity and hope.
The reason patchouli oil is an effective anti-depressant is because by inhaling it, it can help trigger the release of both seratonin and dopamine, the pleasure hormones in the brain, which can directly alleviate feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. Research conducted in 2015 suggested that, " patchouli oil is used to relieve depression, stress, calm nerves, control appetite and to improve sexual interest."
How to use patchouli essential oil for depression:
1. Inhale directly: Inhale patchouli essential oil directly from the bottle or by rubbing a few drops on your wrists. This will help release disappointment and ease tension.
2. Use in a diffuser: Diffuse a few drops of patchouli oil to relieve feelings of sadness and reduce depressive thoughts and feelings.
Find premium quality patchouli essential oil at UpNature. GMO Free. No toxins. Unfiltered and undiluted. Therapeutic grade.
15. Cedarwood Essential Oil
Cedarwood essential oil has a lovely woodsy aroma and has a calming and soothing effect on the mind and body making it a good mood stabilizer. The oil is also an effective natural sedative. The scent of the oil triggers the release of serotonin in the brain, which is then converted to melatonin which encourages better sleep. In fact a study showed that when rats inhaled cedarwood oil (which contains the component cedrol), activity decreased and sleep increased significantly.
With its natural ability to enhance better sleep quality, cedarwood oil can calm, relax, help with chronic stress and also alleviate depression.
How to use cedarwood essential oil for depression:
1. Inhale directly: Inhale cedarwood essential oil directly from the bottle to relieve tension and calm the mind.
2. Apply topically: When feeling stressed, rub 1-2 drops of cedarwood oil right above your eyebrows to immediately reduce agitation and feel calm.
3. Use in a diffuser: Diffuse a few drops of cedarwood oil an hour or so before heading to bed to set the mood for a good night's sleep.
Find premium quality cedarwood essential oil at UpNature. GMO Free. No toxins. Unfiltered and undiluted. Therapeutic grade.
3 Uplifting Essential Oil Blends for Depression
When you're depressed it feels like the tough days will never end. Essential oil blends can work wonderfully to help you fight depressive thoughts, feel hopeful and simply get through your day.
Try these top three essential oil blends for fighting depression:
1. Anti-Stress Blend
Sandalwood, Orange and Rose Essential Oils
If you're feeling anxious or agitated or feel a panic attack coming on this blend will help to calm and relax. Also great to diffuse to unwind at the end of a stressful day.
10 drops Sandalwood Essential Oil
4 drops Orange Essential Oil
6 drops Rose Essential Oil
Add the essential oils to roughly half a cup of water in your diffuser and breathe away.
2. Mood-Lifting Blend
Grapefruit, Lavender and Geranium Essential Oils
Fight the lows of depression with this invigorating blend.
8 drops Grapefruit Essential Oil
5 drops Lavender Essential Oil
2 drops Geranium Essential Oil
Combine the essential oils with 4 tbsp. of a carrier oil such as coconut oil or organic argan oil and store in a dark glass bottle. Add 1/2 tbsp. to a warm bath or use as a full-body massage oil.
3. Anti-Agitation Blend
Cedarwood, Orange and Chamomile Essential Oils
Depression can cause feelings of agitation, anger and restlessness. When that happens reach out for this blend below.
Add the essential oils to your diffuser to soothe away irritability and agitation and relax.
Side Effects and Warnings
Essential oils are natural but powerful. Some people may develop an allergic reaction to any oil so it's always best to try a little by doing a small skin patch test on your arm or leg (never your face or neck) to make sure you don't have an adverse reaction.
If you're pregnant or nursing, or on any kind of medication please check with your doctor before using essential oils.
What to Look for When Buying Essential Oils?
When buying essential oils make sure the bottle says 100% pure essential oil, and has the proper name of the species mentioned on the label of the bottle. Example for lavender: (Lavandula Hybrida Medicus). If you see the word 'fragrance' it almost always means there are other additives.
Ideally it's always best to buy essential oils from an organic source that are labeled as "Therapeutic grade," meaning they are free of toxins and chemicals and are unfiltered and undiluted.
Also beware of genetically modified ingredients and choose Non GMO essential oils.
There is no fixed recipe when it comes to essential oils and what might work for you might not work for someone else. Since we are all biochemically exclusive, it's best to experiment with a variety of essential oils, pay attention to your body, and find the "personal blends" that work most optimally for you.
Back to you!
What are your favorite essential oils to use when you're feeling low? Feel free to share your comments or your own recommendations of essential oils and how they can help alleviate depression symptoms in the comments section below.